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Ohio State alums Scarlet & Gray advance in The Basketball Tournament

Jared Sullinger turns in an impressive effort in front of NBA scouts.

Kentucky v Ohio State Photo by Chris Trotman/Getty Images

As of Saturday, The Basketball Tournament’s team Scarlet & Gray is now halfway to claiming a $2 million prize, as they defeated Always a Brave, 81-72.

The Basketball Tournament might not have the “best” players in the world, but that hasn’t made the action any less enjoyable. In the Ohio State alumni’s Super 16 matchup against a formidable team of Bradly alums, team Scarlet & Gray benefited from an up-tempo, free-flowing game not hampered by constant whistles or endless trips to the free-throw line.

In the early going, newly signed AS Monaco guard Aaron Craft led the way, showing that he still has the ability to contribute in all facets of the game. After hitting a corner three, he also drove to the rim and finished with an underhanded scoop. Then on defense, he dove over an Always a Brave player to pick up a turnover before being fouled.

Also contributing early was current Turkish League star Jon Diebler. While in the early going we didn’t see one of his patented threes, he was consistently connecting on deep-twos.

In the second half, after a driving layup to give the Scarlet & Gray a 54-43 lead, Diebler seemed to sprain his right ankle. He did not return to the game, and his status for Sunday’s game is not known.

As the first half progressed, Team Scarlet & Gray used incredibly balanced scoring to maintain a lead over the Bradley alums, in part because of the deep shooting stroke of an unlikely source. On back-to-back possessions, Jared Sullinger hit a two from just inside the arc, and then a three from way downtown.

With NBA scouts in the building, the free agent ended the first half with 11 points, six rebounds, and two assists.

In the first half, Scarlet & Gray hit 10 of their 18 shots from inside the arc, and were an impressive 5-9 from downtown. Conversely, Always a Brave was 8-13 from two, but only 2-14 for distance. As was a problem in their first two games, the former Buckeyes were hampered by turnovers, committing nine in the first half. The Bradley crew was buoyed in the first 18 minutes by 11 points from their bench.

As the second half opened, Always a Brave raced out to cut the S&G lead to just 40-38, helped in part by an oddly-called technical foul on Craft. However, from that point, the Buckeye alums rebounded to go on an eight-point run to take a 48-38 lead into a timeout.

Despite the fact that the team was only recently, officially put together, many members of the Scarlet & Gray benefit from having already played together. Six of the team’s players were significant contributors to OSU’s great 2010-2011 squad. That familiarity leads to an understanding on the floor that a lot of the other teams just don’t have the opportunity to have.

Halfway through the second half, Always a Brave’s Jerome Randle went on a one-man run, scoring nine-straight points to bring the score to 60-54 in favor of the former Buckeyes with 7:30 left in the game. The run gave Randle 16 points at that point.

However, coming out of a break, William Buford hit a corner three to move the S&G advantage back up to nine points. On the very next offensive possession, Sullinger completed an old-fashioned three-point play to extend the advantage to 66-54.

The Bradley alums continued to apply pressure to the Scarlet & Gray, thanks to an 11-2 run that cut the gap to 73-67, before Craft hit a pair of free-throws, aided by a lane violation.

Always a Brave’s Tony Bennett, Randle’s cousin, immediately responded, hitting a three of his own to keep the game at two possessions as it moved under two minutes. However, it was not enough to ultimately close the gap on the Scarlet & Gray.

The Ohio State alums will play in the Regional Finals tomorrow at 12:00pm ET on the ESPN family of networks. Scarlet & Gray will face either the No. 1 seeded Marquette alums, Golden Eagles or Kansas State’s No. 4 Purple and Black Attack.

The winner of that game will advance to Baltimore next weekend for TBT’s semifinals.